Rehearsals commence for Doorstep Arts’ ‘Dogfight’

I’ve decided to trade my coffee in for a well-deserved wine this week, after our first full sing through of the Dogfight score. We have just finished our first week of rehearsals for this production, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Our first rehearsal with our MD, feat. Joel with his fingers in his mouth
Our first rehearsal with our MD, feat. Joel with his fingers in his mouth

Presented by Doorstep Arts- a leading independent theatre company based in Geelong- and hot off their critically acclaimed season of Next to Normal (Geelong Performing Arts Centre, Hayes Theatre Co.), this season of Dogfight will serve as the Melbourne Premiere of this poignant show.

Set on the eve of November 21, 1963, three young marines set out for one final boy’s night before their deployment to the Vietnam War. Some people would say it follows a similar premise to On The Town, and those some people would be wrong. Instead of triple pirouetting their way through the streets of New York, this group of marines each put $50 into the pot, and whoever can bring the ugliest date wins the total. A cruel but actual real-life event that marines used to participate in, as a final means to remove them of their empathy for others. While describing this premise to my non-performer friends has elicited responses ranging from “ooo that sounds so dark” to “oh, so it’s a comedy?”, what the musical truly explores is that of love, compassion and human connection.

Our Rose and Eddie- Olivia Charalambous and Alex Woodward
Our Rose and Eddie – Olivia Charalambous and Alex Woodward

With music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Edges, A Christmas Story) and book by Peter Duchan (Breaking Upwards), I have rarely seen another musical with such sophistication, humour and heart-string-pulling-you’re-going-to-cry-as-soon-as-Rose-sings-all-of-her-songs sort of writing.

I have the great pleasure of playing Dickie Bernstein, the youngest and perhaps most naïve of the ‘three Bees’ that participates in the Dogfight. Some might call him a dork. I just call it typecasting.

After having our first discussion, design presentation and read through, led by our Director Darylin Ramondo, we then moved on to learning and perfecting this massive score, led by our Music Director, Trevor Jones. Carefully composed to represent the tight barbershop harmonies and the empowering and revolutionary lyrics of 1960s music, I can safely say the score is one of the defining factors of this show. As such, it was even more rewarding to hear it all come to life. From next week, I’m looking forward to getting the show on its feet with Darilyn, and starting to learn the dances with our choreographer, Leanne Marsland.

7 things I have already learnt from Week 1:

1. The more difficult your harmony line is, the more eargasmic it is when you manage to put it together with everyone else

2. Pasek and Paul love to write difficult harmony lines

The marines during the sing through, feat. Joel with jaw tension and a really high larynx
The marines during the sing through, feat. Joel with jaw tension and a really high larynx

3. And in case the harmonies weren’t hard enough, the rhythms might be even more difficult. In the words of our MD, “it’s like the composers were told to cut 10 minutes from the show, and did so by removing random counts and bars from every song”

4. The 60s were an incredibly fascinating period, and I never fully appreciated what a time of change it was for the world until researching for this show

5. Being a music theatre nerd, I’m ashamed to say I knew the musical before the movie. But the original 1991 River Phoenix movie Dogfight is actually a beautifully poignant film that is well worth watching. (I’m gonna go ahead and say the musical is still better though- mostly because my character doesn’t properly exist in the movie)

6. Not playing the ‘nice guy’ for once is actually quite liberating. Calling someone ‘thunder thighs’ and getting away with it isn’t something that usually happens in my life

7. This cast and crew are some of the most talented, genuinely lovely people I’ve ever met and I feel incredibly fortunate to start off my post-drama school life with this group of creatives

A sneak peek of the costume designs by Rhiannon Irving
A sneak peek of the costume designs by Rhiannon Irving

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran VIC

Dates: Thursday 5 May – Sunday 15 May

Time: Mon-Sat 8pm, Saturday Matinee 2pm, Sunday 5pm

Tickets: $44.90 – $49.90 plus credit card fees


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Joel Granger

Born in the land of sheep and hobbits, Joel Granger moved to Australia to study at WAAPA's Music Theatre course, class of 2015. Currently playing the role of Elder McKinley in the Australian tour of 'The Book of Mormon' tour, his other stage and screen credits include 'She Loves Me', 'Brigadoon', 'Sweeney Todd', 'Please Like Me' and 'True Story with Hamish & Andy.' He would like to say he enjoys long walks on the beach, but his ginger hair and freckled skin means he actually avoids sunshine as much as possible. Follow Joel on instagram at: @joelgranger_

Joel Granger

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